By Josh Sullivan, Sports Editor
Hilary Witt knows what kind of hockey team her squad needs to be winners, and she knows her team isn’t where it needs to be yet. The ‘Cats lost to both Quinnipiac and Dartmouth this weekend, dropping to 2-6-1 on the season and being outscored by the opposition 10-3. While offensive struggles appear to be the primary woes of the team, there’s more to the situation than that.
“The identity should be that we’re difficult to play against because we work hard up and down the ice and we’re a skating team,” Witt said after the loss to Quinnipiac. “I think we do that sometimes, but we don’t do it all the time.”
But don’t mistake losing for a lack of effort. Anyone watching the game in the stands at the Whit on Friday would be incompetent not to recognize that goaltender Vilma Vaattovaara stood on her head and earned those 34 saves, or to see that junior forward Sara Carlson outworked the majority of Quinnipiac’s lineup despite being thrust into a role as a defensemen because the team needed someone to step up. No, the team is anything but content with losing, and that was obvious with Vaattovaara’s reaction after the loss to the Bobcats.
“I don’t think I played the best i could,” she said. “I don’t think the D played the best, i don’t think we forechecked or picked up sticks when we were standing next to players.”
The team lacks confidence, something made evident by both Witt and Vaattovaara.
And like any team lacking confidence, small mistakes begin to add up. Shots from the point hit defensemen’s shin guards; opposing forwards toe-drag defensemen; wingers are allowed to walk out of the corners untouched and put multiple shots on net. Things that can frustrate a team to no end on the ice, but motivate it off the ice when watching film.
There were positives to take out of the weekend too though. Winger Brittany Redlick scored her first goal of the season on a goalie who had yet to allow one in the entire season. The young defensemen logged a ton of ice time and handled it fairly well. It’s a young group that will only keep getting better as the season progresses.
The schedule only gets harder from this point on, in a Hockey East-heavy schedule that features seven conference teams in the next 10 games they will play. The team will take on a Northeastern team that is also struggling this season on Thursday at home. The game is the perfect opportunity to get their feet under them.
“There’s no panic,” Vaattovaara said. “We just have to go ahead and do what we say we’re going to do.”